Starting today I am delighted to announce Magnum Photos Presents, a new column where Magnum Photos, the most prestigious photographic cooperative in the world, will be featuring some of the stunning stories created recently by their photographers. We will also be looking back in time and reflecting on work from their archives. And what a phenomenal archive it is. From Robert Capa’s infamous ‘Death of a loyalist militiaman’ image, René Burri’s 1963 session with Che Guevara, Stuart Franklin’s 'Tiananmen Square Tank Man’, Eve Arnold’s bar girls in a brothel, Inge Morath's gypsy families in Ireland and Donovan Wylie's shots of Maze prison, Magnum's photographers have been in the front line of history, between them covering the most historical events of the last century.
Founded by Robert Capa, George Rodger, David ‘Chim’ Seymour and Henri Cartier Bresson in Paris in 1947, Magnum Photos was set up to reflect their independent curious natures as people, reporters and photographers, and this idiosyncratic mix of reporter and artist continues to define Magnum today. This mix shines ever so brightly with Jonas Bendiksen, the first photographer featured in our new Magnum Photos Presents column. Below Magnum presents Bendiksen’s ‘Far From Home’ series and explains his journey to becoming the Magnum photographer he is today.
Far From Home, shot by Magnum Photographer Jonas Bendiksen and originally published in the National Geographic Magazine, explores the world of guest workers in the arab Gulf oil states such as United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. While marketing itself as a luxury playground of tourism and business, close to 90% of UAE and Qatar's population are foreign workers.
Most of these workers come from far poorer nations such as India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Nepal, and the workers often endure very difficult employment and living conditions. Often times parents will leave their home country for a decade or more to try to build up savings for their family back home, putting a big strain on family relations.
The World Bank estimates that yearly sum of remittances (the money being sent home by foreign guest workers) amounts to more than double all official foreign aid globally. Foreign guest workers therefore have a formidable economic impact, but often at a high personal cost.
Jonas Bendiksen is Norwegian and was born in 1977. He began his career at the age of 19 as an intern at Magnum's London office, before leaving for Russia to pursue his own work as a photojournalist. Throughout the several years he spent there, Bendiksen photographed stories from the fringes of the former Soviet Union, a project that was published as the book Satellites (2006).
Here and elsewhere, he often focuses on isolated communities and enclaves. In 2005, with a grant from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, he started working on The Places We Live, a project on the growth of urban slums across the world, which combines still photography, projections and voice recordings to create three-dimensional installations.
Bendiksen has received numerous awards, including the 2003 Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, New York, and second place in the Daily Life Stories for World Press Photo, as well as first prize in the Pictures of the Year International Awards. His documentary of life in a Nairobi slum, Kibera, published in the Paris Review, won a National Magazine Award in 2007. His editorial clients include National Geographic, Geo, Newsweek, the Independent on Sunday Review, the Sunday Times Magazine, the Telegraph Magazine, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
All images copyright of Jonas Bendiksen.